In the winter of 2011, Blaffer Art Museum announced a major $2 million renovation that would be designed by WORK Architecture Company (WORKac). WORKac, based in New York, is celebrated for their sensitivity to the arts, collaborative work ethic, and original and innovative approach to design. Blaffer Art Museum is WORKac’s first commission in Texas and is being developed in partnership with Gensler. In April, guests of the museum’s annual gala — fittingly named “Rock the Casbah: The Wrecking Ball” — were the first to see renderings of what the new space will look like. And now that it’s summer, we’re rapidly moving towards construction. Be on the look-out for the wrecking ball!

[Rendering of the front entrance]

As the inaugural post for this blog, we (the staff) felt the best way to kick off our renovation ramblings would to be show the renderings by WORKac and talk about the some of the new elements coming to our building. The cool new features are:

  • A courtyard cafe and a lounge.
  • A street-side entrance, which will serve as the main staircase to the second floor. When viewed from outside, you’ll be able to partially see through the translucent bands of clear and textured channel glass
  • The addition of an ADA compliant elevator and a restroom (currently visitors have to share facilities with students in the courtyard).

The renovation will also allow for the integration of a studio/classroom for our award-winning Young Artist Apprenticeship Program (currently housed in an off-site trailer), a dedicated gallery for the recently launched project series “First Take,” and the redesign of the courtyard in view of the presentation of art and entertainment which will turn it into a destination for people on and off campus.

[rendering of cafe-side entrance]

According to WORKac cofounder Dan Wood, while designing the staircase above the new entrance, his structural engineer said the cantilevered platform needed an extra bit of support. Rather than a plain column, they added that wedged wall to support the staircase. Wood calls it “the wallumn” (“column + wall”). Not only does it provide support, but it also visually blocks the loading dock to the left. Wood also stated that angles first seen in the wallumn are repeated throughout the design, even in the planned lighting system. In the rendering above, you can see the neon lights zig-zag upon the ceiling, rather than being placed in uniform linear fashion.

Look for these renderings to become a reality next spring!

[rendering of the new courtyard]